November Writers' Forum

November Writers' Forum - Indie Author Advice You Shouldn't MissIn my journey through the steps of independent publishing, refining my writing skills, and most recently completing a successful agent search, I’ve come across some excellent information, tips, tools, and shortcuts that I think would be beneficial to any writer. Once a month, I’ll share the “best of” information and news from the publishing industry as well as feature other authors and writing instructors with tips to share. I am incredibly thankful for the assistance and advice given to me from writing and publishing professionals and am happy pay that forward. On a professional level, I also use my publicity and editorial skills to aid other authors through my company Lost Lake Press

December Book Events

There aren’t as many events scheduled in the month of December, but it is a great time to remind everyone to stop by these fabulous bookstores for Christmas purchases!

Mystery to Me Bookstore, 1863 Monroe Street, Madison

Saturday, December 16 – USA Today best-selling author Allen Eskens discusses “Deep Dark Descending” at 2 pm.

A Room of One’s Own, 315 W. Gorham Street, Madison

Boswell Books, 2559 N. Downer, Milwaukee

Featured events in December include authors Dr. Henry Jay Przybylo, Sergio M. Gonzalez, Martha Greene Phillips, David Fishman, and Elizabeth Berg.

Books & Company, 1039 Summit Avenue, Oconomowoc

Featured Subject

Kindle's 10th Birthday -  What it means to the publishing industry & moreThoughts on Kindle’s 10th Birthday, Amazon’s place in the book market, traditional publishing’s reaction to the challenge to their supremacy, and sad news about Midwest bookstores closing . . .

It’s been ten years since the launch of the Kindle and the true expansion of the e-book market. (There were a few other e-book devices before then.) David Gaughran writes an insightful article about the birth of the Kindle and the revolution of the e-book marketplace. 

The biggest takeaway from this article and Amazon’s undisputed dominance in the e-book market is this,

“So why did eBooks suddenly flourish? How did Amazon essentially create the modern eBook market? Why did Amazon end up being the dominant force rather than, say, a first mover like Sony? These questions are easier to answer if you realize something important: it was never about the device. While Amazon is responsible for many hardware innovations, I don’t think anyone would argue that the Kindle Fire is higher spec than the iPad, and Kobo arguably led the way for many years in terms of dedicated e-readers without grabbing Amazon’s market-share.

It was about the store.”

Gaughran also goes onto describe/analyze traditional publishing's reaction (and inaction) as their dominance in the book market was challenged, and the importance of Kindle and the birth of Kindle Direct Publishing to the growth of the marketplace for indie authors. This is a fascinating read for those of us involved in the indie book industry. While people love to hate Amazon for oh-so-many things, indie authors would not be where we are today without them.

And we often blame Amazon’s pricing structures for closing bookstores, but most news accounts surprise us with headlines like “Indie Bookstores are Thriving.” Here’s a host of articles on this link that tell us why that is, store by store and region by region.  

So, I was sad and a little surprised to learn that Book World (a Midwest chain with 45 stores) will be closing. I’m sure people were quick to blame digital book sales. However, it seems like there was more at work here. Book World’s stores are mostly located in smaller cities and often in malls and downtown locations. A Senior VP was quick to point out that many of the stores, especially those in downtown locations are still doing well. I don’t think it takes a professional market analyst to understand that mall locations in recent years have been a failing endeavor. I’ve stopped at Book World locations across Wisconsin in these nearly-vacant malls and wondered how they were getting the traffic to stay in business—I guess the answer is that they weren’t. While upper management laments the loss of mall anchor stores as one of the cause of Book World's mall location failures, I also wonder why they didn’t shift those stores to new locations with more traffic. Although none of that matters if your town now has no bookstore at all.

Pre-Publication Information

Maggie Stiefvater takes on book piracy! Go Maggie!!








An Absolutely Fascinating Tale of a Bestselling Author and Book Piracy

Do you know who Maggie Stiefvater is . . . no? Let me introduce you. She’s the fabulously talented, bestselling young adult novel author of so many of my favorite titles. The Shiver Series, Raven Cycle, Scorpio Races etc…

Can you tell I’m a fan? She writes great posts on Facebook and is just coming off the tour for her latest release. But this story isn’t about her bestselling titles or her great books, it’s about how she debunked THE MYTH THAT E-BOOK PIRACY DOESN’T HURT PRINT SALES. She did this in such a brilliant way that there’s no way I can paraphrase the whole thing. Read her Facebook post on how she and her brother teamed up to thwart piracy! Go Maggie. I’ve included this in the pre-publication section because you may make some different decisions as you approach your own book launch based on her story.

And before I step off my soapbox, I’ve now incorporated a segment on copyright infringement into my workshops and talks to students.

Taming the Social Media BeastTaming the Social Media Beast & More Indie Author Advice

If social media seems like a beast to you, Anne R. Allen’s article on the best way to approach your social media strategy as you create your author platform is short and to the point. Best take away for me is that you don’t have to update on every social media. You can have an “outpost” on those sites that you don’t intend to update regularly that redirects readers to the space where you do “reside” online. Smart! 

The Authors’ Website

I know I talk about this often, but I don’t think it hurts to repeat the advice that “yes, even a pre-published author needs a website.”  Jane Friedman gives an intelligent checklist that can have you up and running quickly. Tim Grahl also has a succint post on "Building the Ultimate Author Website in 1 Hour using Wordpress".  And if you have a website already, Joan Stewart gives you ten things to check to make sure your website is all it can be. (Even if you’ve had a website for ages, take the time to scan these articles. I’m always finding ways to improve the way I present my author image to the world.)


Our Love-Hate (mostly Hate) Relationship with Book Marketing

Book Marketing Tips -- Love it or Hate it -- You have to do it!Let me first say that your initial book marketing discussions/plans ought to take place in the pre-publication phase, but I’m placing this series of notes/articles here in post-publication to emphasize that book marketing is an ongoing process that really never ends. (This is the point at which we all groan!) But it doesn’t have to be something you dread, and it doesn’t have to be as difficult as it seems.

First, start with something easy. In the article by Judith Briles, “Three Essential Questions Every Author Must Answer”, you will get yourself into the right frame by thinking about your book’s target audience and summarizing what your book is about. 

Then you’ll be ready for “The Shortest Book Marketing Plan” by Joel Friedlander, which will put some solid marketing ideas down on the page. 

Next is the really good news from Sandra Beckwith, “Book Marketing Doesn’t Stop at the Book Launch”. Why is this good news? Well, if you didn’t have a stellar launch, all is not lost!! Beckwith gives some easy checklists of what you can do to keep moving forward. 

If this just all seems like too much, you might be ready for Belinda Griffin’s article asking, “Are you a Swan? How to Overcome Book Marketing Overwhelm”. She gives a great action plan to overcome being overwhelmed, including giving yourself a day off, along with solid steps to move forward.  

And finally take stock with this article from Author Marketing Experts about how relationships are one of the most important elements to book marketing. 

I’m going to talk about that more next month when we address the need to build your own email marketing list and how to do that by offering something of value to your audience without being annoying.

Sales Tax Advice for Authors -- Yes you do need to pay that!Sales Tax Advice for Authors

Helen Sedwick is back with fabulous advice on sales tax for authors. This might not be the first thing you think of when getting ready to sell your book, but you definitely need to know the ins and outs of collecting and paying sales tax in your state. 

Keeping your Back Matter Up to Date

Back matter is exactly what it sounds like—all the great stuff at the back of your book like links to other books, requests for reviews, newsletter sign up etc… Author RJ Crayton’s article for Indies Unlimited is a great reminder for adding this housekeeping task to your to-do list. While easier done when updating digital titles, if you’re uploading your paperback print-on-demand titles yourself, it’s not hard to fix your print copies either.

Are Book Fairs Worth It?

Are Book Fairs Worth Your Time - Indie Author Advice - Finding Your AudienceI’ve been seeing some increased opportunities for independent authors to engage in the big international book fairs. This article from Erica Verrillo discusses these opportunities and gives a list of the international and major national book fairs in the United States. While I’ve not attended any of these, I have had mixed results with regional events within Wisconsin. I caution against signing up for fairs with steep table fees without hearing from authors who have had success in making money at these events. Sometimes sales aren’t the only litmus test. If an event is great for networking and possibly booking speaking engagements, then you have two different thresholds to gauge the effectiveness of the event. To be honest, some of my best sales have been at locations where there are very few others selling books--craft/vendor fairs and ethnic festivals. (I write Irish-themed books.) These have been fabulous for me and far better than any book fair I’ve ever attended.

How to Dazzle at Your Next Speaking Engagement

Are you booking speaking engagements or presentations? I hope you are, because it is an excellent way to increase your income by sharing all you’ve learned on your writing and publishing journey. I enjoy speaking engagements, because the interaction is good for me with writing being such a solitary endeavor otherwise. Here’s a fab article: “20+ Pro Tips to Dazzle During Your Next Speaking Engagement”. I was happy to see that I do nearly all of these, but I didn’t at first and sure would have appreciated a list like this!  My favorite is making your slide deck available for download. I’ve gone one step further and I’ve narrated my slide decks, turning them into YouTube presentations that you can listen to at your own pace. Here’s a link to my YouTube Channel if you’re curious.


I hope that these articles helped you on your writing and publishing journey!

Happy Reading & Writing, Valerie  



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